Judd Apatow’s Feature Films, Ranked

Recently, Judd Apatow hosted the Directors Guild Awards for the third time (and rode the tough gig like he owned it). But somehow, Apatow is more than just a director. From television freaks and geeks on, he launched what looks like an entire generation of on-screen comedy stars. And as a producer – of everything from Lena Dunham Girls at Adam McKay Presenter – he had such an impact in shaping and supporting the work of others. But Apatow has his own movies, just over a handful so far, and they’re a pure expression of everything he does well. Most are worth seeing. Here’s our very opinionated ranking of them, from worst to best.

7. The bubble (2022)

Okay, this one isn’t that hot – blame it on the lockdown, comedy killer – but it still carries some of Apatow’s signature, including Leslie’s redeeming on-screen presence. Mann, his wife. Dinosaur VFX not being this director’s forte, Apatow loses the thread when The bubble goes big, the more his ideas about Hollywood vanity would have seemed dated 30 years ago in The player. Still, give him credit for doing more during the pandemic than binge-watching Easttown Mare in his sweatpants. (Available on Netflix)

The bubble

6. The King of Staten Island (2020)

Somewhat overshadowed by its release at the dawn of the pandemic (two festival launches had to be scrapped), Apatow’s out-and-out comedy was the couch watch that kept on giving. The script stems from Pete Davidson’s real-life backstory, at least in part, and as a dramatic anchor, it’s never been more impressive than it is here. But the film’s deeper charms are on the periphery: a believable blue-collar midfielder and a powerful performance from Marisa Tomei that should have received more accolades. (Available on most streamers for $3.99)

The King of Staten Island

The King of Staten Island

5. funny people (2009)

Audaciously abrasive, it’s Apatow’s film that feels the least like a comedy – which isn’t to say it doesn’t have value on its own. funny people is about the health scare of a super-rich ex-comedian and movie star (someone very similar to Adam Sandler). Like with Uncut Gems and love stuffed with punch, it illuminates Sandler’s smarter instincts; he has always been underestimated. Cutthroat competition is the theme of the film, with a streak of camaraderie. A Jason Schwartzman cameo embodies your enemy capable of striking and succeeding professionally. (Available on most streamers for $3.99)

Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler, ... |  FUNNY PEOPLE Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill raise their glasses

Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler, … | FUNNY PEOPLE Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill raise their glasses

4. Trainwreck (2015)

To like The King of Staten Island, this one also has autobiographical roots, from the days of star writer Amy Schumer’s ping-pong party girl. But Schumer does not seek microscopic precision and works with Apatow (a passionate script developer), Rail accident blossoms into something more universally relatable. Colin Quinn is the film’s dramatic surprise as a difficult dad on the decline, and the mercurial Tilda Swinton steals the film in her scenes as an offhand magazine editor. (Available on most streamers for $3.99)

Movie Title: Trainwreck

Movie Title: Trainwreck

3. knocked up (2007)

The bad blood between star Katherine Heigl and Apatow overshadowed the merits of this pregnancy comedy – too bad because everyone should have benefited from what works so well, especially the cast interaction. Apatow’s self-penned screenplay is a critique of undeveloped boy-men, not a celebration of them, but the more you examine the central relationship, the more fragile it seems. (The film also became a piñata in an external debate over issues of reproductive choice, which Apatow should have foreseen.) Still, rom-coms are becoming more fragile, and most of them aren’t as self-contained. reflexive. (Available on most streamers for $3.99)

9. Knocked Up (2007)

9. Knocked Up (2007)

2. It’s 40 (2012)

This comedy about marital anxiety set the tone for much of the director’s work to come: likable, actor-centric, pleasingly meandering. (Something you learn from watching Apatow films: the plot is overrated.) Technically, it’s a spin-off of Mann and Paul Rudd’s characters in knocked up, but the material is less about accidental families and more about those held together by hard work, compromise and lots of shouting. Apatow’s real daughters, Maude and Iris, come into their own. (Available on most streamers for $3.99)

It's 40

It’s 40

1. The 40 year old virgin (2005)

An unmissable comedy and one of the most confident feature debuts of all time, Virgin delivers Apatow’s gritty comedy elements intact on the big screen. Steve Carell and Catherine Keener have an awkward but believable relationship that would put most “serious” drama to shame, and again Apatow fills the margins with rich detail: an iconic chest waxing scene, the amorous stooge by Paul Rudd, the intimidating boss of Jane Lynch, and Leslie Mann, pocketing her husband’s film again, this time as a near drunken encounter. This is definitely where you should start with Apatow’s work, even though his films have grown more complex. (Available on most streamers for $3.99)

Jane Lynch, Steve Carell, ... |  There are two things Paula wants: Andy to be her

Jane Lynch, Steve Carell, … | There are two things Paula wants: Andy to be her “fucking buddy” and enough weed to keep her in the oven for a week.

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